Six local companies have received the first certificates of completion from the County’s Supplier Diversity Mentor-Protégé Program. Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale talked about the importance of helping our local small businesses become successful. “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. They create 60 to 80 percent of the net new jobs nationwide.”
Six companies graduated from the program’s protégé status at this morning’s event: Lucas Drywall Inc.; Andrews Electric; Rich Construction; Spratt Construction; Shanklin & Sons Carpet; and Turman Enterprises. The Mentor-Protégé Program was launched in December 2007 by the Knox County Purchasing Division’s Supplier Diversity Program. Its purpose is to match small and minority-owned business owners with large company owners and/or managers who will serve as mentors to provide various forms of assistance to help their protégé company improve its ability to successfully compete for contracting opportunities.
All of the companies who participated as mentors and protégés are in the construction industry doing the kind of work that helps local economies stay strong. According to Mayor Ragsdale, “It is important to a healthy economy to keep jobs local. It is also important to keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive and flourishing. That is a critical component of this Mentor-Protégé Program.”
The mentor-protégé program attempts to bridge the gap by helping small companies build relationships with large ones. The four companies that served as mentors are large, well established companies who stepped up last December to become the first mentors in our Supplier Diversity’s mentor-protégé program through the Knox County Purchasing Division.
Those four mentor companies are J. A. Fielden Company; Johnson & Galyon, Incorporated; Merit Construction; and Messer Construction. Each of these companies has worked to mentor small, minority-owned businesses by helping improve the ability of their protégés to successfully compete for contracting opportunities at the local, state and even federal level.
Under the terms of the mentor-protégé program agreement, mentors may help their protégé companies in either technical or business management areas. For example, Merit Construction provided one of their protégé companies, Pratt Construction, with guidance in marketing and bookkeeping procedures. According to Jack Spratt, “This is absolutely a great program. Merit did a nice job with just the kinds of things I needed help with.”
The program also allows mentors to provide support to their protégés by actually giving them subcontracting opportunities. Messer Construction took advantage of that piece of the program as a way to mentor Turman Enterprises step-by-step through construction project bidding and management. Randall Turman said that the Mentor-Protégé Program has really meant a lot to his company. He said his mentor, Messer Construction, helped him really get his goals focused, “They really helped us know how to lay the foundation for business. They showed us how to take a job from A to Z.”
Spratt and Turman represent two of six success stories from the first year of the program. Knox County is very proud of what each of these mentor-protégé pairs has been able to accomplish over the last 12 months.
The Mentor-Protégé Program was designed to increase minority participation for sub-contractors seeking to be a part of a County project, and to see relationships and networks being built among all of the participants. To qualify, mentors and protégés must meet a short list of qualifications, including having a Knox County business license and being current on federal, state, county and city taxes. Applications are available through the Knox County Purchasing Division, Supplier Diversity Coordinator, Robert Minter, 1000 North Central Street, Suite 100, Knoxville, Tennessee 37917, 865-215-5756. An application is also available online at http://knoxcounty.org/supplierdiversity/